Don't 'force fit' Florida test cut scores to NAEP, superintendents urge State Board
The lines have been clearly drawn in Florida's approach to setting the "cut" scores for the Florida Standards Assessments five achievement levels.
Some State Board of Education members have called for connecting the scores to NAEP proficiency levels, a position forcefully promoted by state business interests and former Gov. Jeb Bush's education foundation. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has said there's no direct connection between "passing" Florida's test and proving "proficiency" on the national exam.
She's recommended cut scores lower than what some board members have demanded.
With crunch time approaching -- the board has set a cut scores discussion for December and a vote for January -- the state's superintendents are casting their lot with the commissioner. The group, which in September said NAEP should not play a part in Florida's test scores, on Thursday sent a letter to board chairwoman Marva Johnson reiterating its position that NAEP and FSA are not the same thing.
Pointing to NAEP's own website, the superintendents noted that the "Nation's Report Card" does not correlate to the Common Core standards that Florida largely uses. It is separate from state standardized tests, they added, and offers a representative sample rather than school or student results.
"Clearly, the two assessments have different purposes," the group wrote. "Furthermore, the achievement level cut scores should not be set in a way that creates a 'forced fit' with NAEP cut scores."
They argued that the commissioner's process to arrive at her recommendation should be respected, not circumvented for political purposes.
"A significant variance from the recommendations established through this inclusive process negates the process and calls into question the need for the process itself," they wrote.
Although they run the state's school districts, and in many cases have large constituencies of their own, the superintendents have not held sway over this or other associated debates in recent years. Some lawmakers and others have attempted to portray them as naysayers who would have stopped school grading and other accountability measures before they ever got started -- an accusation the district leaders strongly reject.
In 2011, past commissioner Gerard Robinson ignored superintendents' concerns over cut score recommendations, setting them higher to meet State Board member wishes at the time.
The current board has encouraged Stewart to bring back more information about how cut scores higher than her recommendation would affect schools and students. She has yet to provide that information, or to alter her recommendation.